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When it comes to seasonal favorites, it’s hard to go wrong with the buttery, crispy delight that is a sugar cookie. The dough is easy to make and handles easily. If that wasn’t enough, they’re also a great thing to decorate, either for friends or with kids. However some recipes can tend to lean on the bland side, or the dough consistency is changeable. The dough created in this recipe ends up with a lovely, firm texture that rolls out and cuts easily while keeping its shape.

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The History of Sugar Cookies

The sugar cookie first made it to America in the 1700s, thanks to the German immigrants who settled in the Nazareth colony of Pennsylvania. Sugar cookies were known as Nazareth Cookies or Amish Cookies, and the settlers typically shaped them in the symbol of a keystone. This is the state symbol for Pennsylvania. A similar British cookie was the Jumble, which was popular in the Tudor period of history. These are like a sugar cookie; however, they include more by way of spices. Today, national sugar cookie day is July 9th, although they’re most strongly connected to Halloween, Hanukkah, and Christmas.

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Ingredient List

The basic staple ingredients of the cookies - eggs, flour, and sugar - are similar to shortbread or a butter biscuit, but each has its own distinct texture. Sugar cookies are typically sweeter than shortbread cookies and have a lighter, crisper texture. The ingredients listed below should make you a batch between two and three dozen cookies.

  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces of cream cheese
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
ingredients for sugar cookies fcafotodigital / Getty Images
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Beat the Wet Ingredients

To begin, make sure that your butter and cream cheese have been left at room temperature for at least an hour. Then put them in a large bowl, with the sugar. If you have a stand mixer you want to fit it with your blade attachment, or you can use an electric mixer just as well. On medium speed, beat for a few minutes. You want the mixture to become light and fluffy and well-mixed. Then beat in your egg, almond and vanilla extracts, and the lemon zest until the mixture is smooth and light.

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Combine the Dry Ingredients

In a separate bowl, sift your flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and mix together. Then put your stand mix or electric hand whisk onto a low setting, and beat in the solids at a low speed, until everything is well mixed together. The dough should be smooth and soft and have a similar consistency to Play-Doh.

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The Secret to Great Cookies

For the best sugar cookies, you need to allow the dough to be chilled or frozen, which will increase the lightly crunchy texture. If you plan on making cookies very soon, then roll your dough onto parchment paper to between a ⅛ or ¼ inch thickness. Let them chill for at least one hour to get the best consistency. If you are making a dough that you’d prefer to bake later, then this is the perfect time to freeze it. Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap, and then place into a freezer bag. They’ll keep for up to one month. In order to use thaw the dough in a refrigerator overnight.

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Time to Bake

When you are ready to cook your chilled dough, remove it from the fridge and let it soften for a few moments to make it easier to roll. The amount of butter in the recipe means that this makes a very firm dough. Once you have rolled your dough, heat your oven to 350F, and line your baking sheets with parchment paper. You can choose to hand roll your cookies or use a more decorative cookie cutter if you prefer shapes. Cut out the cookies and place onto the sheets, and then bake for 8 to 12 minutes. Sugar cookies are light in color, so be careful not to let them cook for too long. Remove from the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes, before placing them to cool fully a wire rack. If you’re planning on adding icing decoration then let them cool completely.

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Flavored Sugar Cookie Ideas

If you enjoy the texture of sugar cookies but prefer a slightly stronger taste to your cookies, there are a number of flavors that you can add to shake up the taste.

  • Add a ¾ cup of chocolate chips to your dough to make chocolate chip sugar cookies.
  • Add ¾ cup finely chopped cranberries and ½ cup finely chopped nuts to make cranberry nut sugar cookies.
  • A teaspoon of butterscotch flavoring or even ¾ cup of butterscotch chips makes delicious butterscotch sugar cookies.
what can you add to sugar cookies fcafotodigital / Getty Images

Tips for Baking with Kids

The firm texture of this particular dough makes them a fantastic choice if you want to have a baking day with children. The dough is quite robust, and therefore you’ll find that it doesn’t tear as easily as some other doughs can do. If you are baking with children, roll your dough to around ¼ inch thick, so that it’s easier for little fingers to pick up.

kids baking sugar cookies AshleyWiley / Getty Images

Decoration Ideas

While sugar cookies are great with just a light dusting of powdered sugar, if you are looking for ways to decorate your cookies, the only limit is your imagination.

  • Ice with a sugar glaze then sandwich Nutella between two cookies
  • Glaze with warmed jelly then sandwich with another cut-out cookie on top
  • Drizzle with melted chocolate
  • Ice with royal icing and stick on candy dots for decoration
decorating sugar cookies eli_asenova / Getty Images

Making a bigger batch of dough

If you want to make a much larger batch of sugar cookies - either for freezing or perhaps for an occasion, the amended ingredient amounts are here. This batch of sugar cookies should make between eight and 12 dozen cookies.

  • 3 cups unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces cream cheese
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 9 cups flour
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
sugar cookies recipe big batch GMVozd / Getty Images

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